These revolutionary designs are tackling taboo well being points for girls


Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

A non-hormonal contraception capsule that girls can insert simply earlier than intercourse. A rape package that provides victims extra company and streamlines the proof assortment course of. An overhauled design for a 150-year-old device utilized in postpartum vaginal tearing.

These design are simply among the finalists introduced this week within the 2021 Index Award, and their creators hope to make the way forward for medication and sexual well being extra equitable for all genders.

“There’s nonetheless a lot disgrace round feminine, trans and non-binary our bodies that impose dangerous obstacles to healthcare,” stated Liza Chong, CEO of the award’s Danish nonprofit group, The Index Venture. “A tradition of silence persists round plenty of essential matters, starting from girls’s sexual pleasure to the long-term implications of childbirth, serving to sideline very important conversations and deny folks entry to useful and even life-saving sources.”

Telemedicine firm Sehat Kahani makes use of an all-female community of medical doctors to bolster healthcare accessibility in Pakistan and strengthen alternatives for feminine medical professionals. Credit score: Sehat Kahani

Hosted since 2005, the biennial awards focuses extra broadly on how design can resolve essential international points — previous winners embody the language app Duolingo and the 3D-printed Mars habitat MARSHA — however with one class centered solely on design for the physique, finalists and winners usually sort out gendered points in medication which have lengthy been ignored or are thought-about taboo.

Two years in the past, for example, the finalists included the AI-powered chatbot Raaji, which solutions questions on menstruation, psychological well being and intercourse for women and younger girls in creating international locations. This yr, two girls medical doctors, Dr. Sara Saeed Khurram and Dr. Iffat Zafar Aga, have been acknowledged for his or her Pakistani telemedicine firm Sehat Kahani, which makes use of an all-female community of medical doctors. In line with the Index Award, the e-clinics present accessible healthcare and try and fight the so-called “physician bride” phenomenon, the place many feminine medical college students within the nation forgo their careers, below strain to prioritize motherhood.

Lengthy overdue redesigns

This yr’s finalists hope to make seismic modifications on this planet by a single thoughtfully designed product that, in some circumstances, replace a long-neglected space of medication. Take the Hegenberger Speculum, for example, which claims to make it simpler for midwives to sew perineum tears that happen throughout beginning — one thing 9 out of 10 girls expertise, in accordance with the UK’s Nationwide Well being Service (NHS) — and is made out of silicone as an alternative of steel for extra consolation for the affected person. The present speculum had not been up to date in a century and a half, in accordance with its creator, Malene Hegenberger.

“It is fairly a taboo topic,” Hegenberger instructed the Danish media outlet Avisen in 2018. “Girls typically do not wish to be a hassle and there is numerous different stuff to deal with after childbirth. They put themselves apart and put the kid first. I feel that is why there hasn’t been a lot accomplished about it.”
This silicone speculum stays expanded while inserted so midwives can use both hands to stitch postpartum tearing, allowing them to perform the proceduce without an assistant and simplifying the process.

This silicone speculum stays expanded whereas inserted so midwives can use each fingers to sew postpartum tearing, permitting them to carry out the proceduce with out an assistant and simplifying the method. Credit score: Malene Hegenberger/MadeByMakers

In the meantime, the corporate Cirqle Biomedical is to start with levels of testing a brand new type of contraception that, if profitable, may revolutionize the sphere since hormonal contraception was launched to the market in 1960.

“Girls’s well being has been under-prioritized and uncared for for many years,” stated CEO Frederik Petursson Madsen over e-mail. “Regardless of having billions of customers, there was little or no innovation within the trade.”

Its product, Oui, is a gel capsule that girls can insert a minute earlier than sexual activity and lasts for as much as 5 hours, in accordance with the corporate. It is non-hormonal, fabricated from water and chitosan biopolymers, and works by thickening cervical mucus, stopping sperm from migrating previous the vaginal canal.

Though Oui has only been tested on animals so far, its creators hope it will provide women with flexible, non-hormonal contraception.

Although Oui has solely been examined on animals thus far, its creators hope it can present girls with versatile, non-hormonal contraception. Credit score: Cirqle Biomedical

Oui is supposed to be much less invasive than implants like Nexplanon and IUDs, which require in-office procedures to insert and take away; present extra flexibility than a day by day regimented capsule; and reduce down on negative effects which might be frequent with hormonal contraception, from associations with despair to the next threat of blood clots and stroke.

“The need for girls who take contraception is to forestall being pregnant, and since this want was the precedence and there was an absence of fine alternate options, girls (have) needed to settle for and put up with the negative effects,” stated design supervisor Marie Lyhne in an e-mail interview.

Addressing systemic points

Designer Antya Waegemann has taken on a deeply advanced drawback that reaches throughout healthcare, policing and authorized methods in international locations all over the world together with the US: the backlog of lots of of 1000’s of untested rape kits — DNA assortment kits that are essential to figuring out and charging sexual assault perpetrators.

Whereas sexual assault impacts folks of all genders, the UN estimates that almost one in three girls over the age of 15 globally have skilled sexual violence, and the statistics for transgender persons are even starker at one in two, in accordance with the Nationwide Sexual Violence Useful resource Heart (NSVRC).

Within the US, the method for testing rape kits is plagued with points from finish to finish, from laboratory delays to police destroying them. The issues begin proper from the start, in accordance with Waegemann, who spent a yr as a sexual assault advocate at New York Presbyterian Hospital, with complicated bundle design and collections that may take hours for victims who’ve simply been by a extreme trauma.

“It turned so clear to me by that course of, and in addition studying the directions myself, how really tough it was to finish this package,” she stated in a video name.

The Margo Kit is a redesigned kit to collect DNA after a sexual assault.

The Margo Equipment is a redesigned package to gather DNA after a sexual assault. Credit score: Margo Equipment

Although Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are educated to gather the rape kits, there’s a nationwide scarcity of some of these nurses, and lots of hospitals will flip away victims if they do not have the workers — or the kits — obtainable. In line with Waegemann, she hardly ever noticed a SANE skilled on workers whereas volunteering; as an alternative, it was largely ER medical doctors and nurses dealing with the method. They are typically a lot much less acquainted with the package, Waegemann stated, which was first designed within the Seventies and may embody as much as 16 totally different envelopes for gathering genital swabs, pubic hair combings and fingernail clippings, amongst different issues.

Waegemann’s redesigned package gives shade coding and clear directions for healthcare suppliers, in addition to an app for the victims to observe together with the method and perceive every step.

The accompanying app helps victims stay informed with a step-by-step explanation.

The accompanying app helps victims keep knowledgeable with a step-by-step clarification. Credit score: Margo Equipment

However Waegemann additionally desires to make processing and testing the kits simpler and quicker for police and lab technicians, in addition to present instant help for victims. Her firm, Margo, is engaged on different merchandise as nicely that goal to reimagine the system totally, from how kits are examined and, importantly, tracked, as soon as they go away the hospital, to an app that provides folks info on how and the place to get examined if they have been assaulted.

“The designs I’ve created in fact contemplate the complete system,” Waegemann stated in a follow-up e-mail. “However they’re actually about taking a complete course of that’s designed to exclude victims from taking management and searching for justice, and re-designing the aftermath…”.

“I actually consider {that a} product itself can change a system in a approach that generally coverage can’t,” she stated within the name.

On September 30, 5 winners will likely be introduced from the 47 whole finalists. The Index Award lists over €200,000 ($244,000) in prizes for the winners, in addition to the potential for the group to assist fund their work shifting ahead.

Prime picture: A Oui capsule by Cirqle Biomedical



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